Internet Safety Information for Parents
"Stranger danger." It is a universal term that has been used across the country for decades to help teach kids how stay safe. Don't talk to strangers. Never get into a car with someone you don't know. Never accept candy or gifts from a stranger. But, with the advent of the computer and Internet, stranger danger has evolved through the years and has met the information superhighway.
Today, the enemy - the stranger - is one that often cannot be seen. Predators have become anonymous. They no longer need to stalk playgrounds out in the open. Thanks to the Internet, these criminals can hide behind a computer screen to lure children into their webs - stealing their innocence and their youth. They troll ? they groom ? and they commit unspeakable acts.
This is a true story from Pittsburgh, Pa. ?
A man from near Pittsburgh, Pa., was chatting online last year with whom he thought was a 12-year-old girl. He arranged to meet her to engage in sexual relations, only to find that she actually was an undercover agent from the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit. The predator's arrest and photo made the evening news.
That night a mother happened to be watching the news and recognized the man as someone who recently had been at her home with her 17-year-old daughter - a friend her daughter had met on the Internet. They thought he was in his early 20's. It turns out, he was 37. When the mother called the police to her home, they spoke to her daughter who admitted that she had been sexually assaulted by that man. The mother also had a 13-year-old daughter - she too was sexually assaulted by him. He is now serving a prison term that will be followed by 20 years of probation.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to combat online predators. The agents of the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit are online everyday working to arrest many of these predators. But that is only one piece of a possible solution. With 53% of teens entering chatrooms and 85% of them - 13 million kids - using instant messaging (IM), children must be equipped with the tools they need to help protect themselves.
How can parents best talk with their children about Internet safety? Open the lines of communication. Not surprisingly, many kids are more adept at using a computer and the Internet than their parents. Talk to your kids to find out what they are doing online. According to a recent survey, only 23% of parents have rules about what their kids can do on the computer, and only 25% of teens with a computer at home say it has a filter or parental controls on it. And while kids are entering chatrooms and using instant messaging at a growing rate, only 8% of adults enter chatrooms and only 18% of adults use IM.
The most important thing to remember is that it is okay to ask your kids questions. What are they doing online? What types of sites do they visit? To whom are they talking? Do they have a profile on a social networking site like MySpace? If so, ask them to show you the site. Remember?it's not being nosey - it's being a parent.
For more information or to request a speaker please email the Education and Outreach Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.